Matthew Poole, our recently appointed interim Director of Programmes, writes to outline his experience of recent evidence gather visits. Matthew joins the foundation, from the National Lottery Community Fund, where he most recently established and led the regional grant making team across the Midlands, and previously was responsible for Talent Match and the Youth Investment Fund.
During the past few weeks, the Youth Futures team have been hosting and facilitating conversations in Manchester, Bolton, Blackpool and Liverpool around understanding the local provision of services available to young people who face overcoming barriers to finding a job. These visits are part of our ongoing strategy of convening, listening and gathering evidence which helps our ambition of changing the way disadvantaged young people are supported into meaningful employment.
These events have brought together a wide variety of organisations and providers to share their experiences of working with young people. These organisations have ranged from youth organisations, employability charities, local authorities, job centres, health providers, city regions and house providers – to name a few! We have heard about challenges including understanding the landscape of provision, the need to coordinate activity more effectively and ensuring that young people themselves are involved in designing and shaping provision.
It’s been really interesting hearing directly from practitioners about the type of barriers that young people face, recognising that young people don’t just have to overcome personal barriers such as skills, qualifications or health but also structural issues such as transport, housing and discrimination. This correlates with our recent academic evidence review that we’ll be sharing later this year. Watch this space!
Of particular personal note, I was struck by the language used to describe young people, with one practitioner in Liverpool saying these are not ‘challenging kids’ but ‘kids facing challenges’. So often young people are viewed as the problem, without recognising or understanding what’s driving the reason they aren’t earning and learning. We also heard the humbling story of a young care leaver who having overcome significant barriers to get a job, struggled to maintain employment because he couldn’t tie the shoelaces on his work boots and as a young man on building sites, felt too embarrassed to ask anyone.
We’ve also been hearing lots of good practice; from reducing re-offending in Bristol and Somerset, taking whole-family approaches in Liverpool, place-based partnerships in Blackpool to supporting hidden young people in Manchester. So far we have visited over a dozen different places, with more visits planned for the South West and Eastern regions, so if you think there is any promising practice we should be seeing or interesting and relevant people we should be talking to, then please let me know – Matthew@youthfuturesfoundation.org.